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Child Exploitation
04/22/2008

Accused California sex tourist added to ICE 'most wanted' list

Mortgage expert charged with having sex with preteen girl in Costa Rica

OAKLAND, Calif. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is appealing for the public's help in locating a 61-year-old Bay Area mortgage finance expert who fled after an ICE investigation led to him being charged with child sex tourism and possession of child pornography.

Leonard B. Auerbach, of Orinda, Calif., was added today to ICE's list of "most wanted" fugitives. The action comes after Auerbach failed to appear for his arraignment in federal court here earlier this month. His whereabouts are unknown.

The charges against Auerbach stem from an ICE probe that began almost two years ago. Search warrants, including one executed at his Orinda residence, showed that Auerbach traveled to Costa Rica approximately 40 times between 2003 and 2007. According to court documents filed in the case, during those searches, ICE agents discovered computers and thumb drives containing images of Auerbach with a minor female in various stages of undress, as well as close-up photographs of the girl's genitals. Data embedded in those digital images indicated they were taken as early as September 2004, when the child was only 12 years old.

The case affidavit also includes excerpts from conversations that were secretly recorded in July 2007 in which Auerbach refers to his "girlfriend," acknowledging her age and having sex with her. In those conversations, Auerbach also comments on pictures he took of the girl when "her clothes are off or half on."

"This case is yet another reminder that pedophiles mistakenly believe they can evade detection and prosecution by committing sex crimes outside the United States," said Mark Wollman, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in San Francisco. "We're hoping that publicizing this case will enable us to capture this defendant and return him to the Bay Area to face justice."

ICE encourages anyone with information about Auerbach's whereabouts, to call ICE's 24-hour toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.

Auerbach is charged with one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign conduct in foreign places and one count of possession of child pornography. The sex tourism charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The maximum penalty for possession of child pornography is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In March 2005, Auerbach was named to the Board of Directors of Luminent, an East Coast real estate investment trust. According to the news release issued by Luminent announcing that appointment, Auerbach formerly served on the faculty of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

This investigation into Auerbach's activities is part of ICE's Operation Predator, an ongoing initiative targeting those who sexually exploit children. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 10,000 individuals nationwide, including more than 2,300 in California. The public is encouraged to report suspected child predators and suspicious activity by contacting ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.